Pierre Poilievre, contender for the leadership of the federal Conservative party calls on members to cast their ballot, at a rally, Saturday, August 20, 2022 in Charlottetown P.E.I. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Pierre Poilievre, contender for the leadership of the federal Conservative party calls on members to cast their ballot, at a rally, Saturday, August 20, 2022 in Charlottetown P.E.I. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Five policy questions Tory leadership front-runner Pierre Poilievre hasn’t answered

Throughout the Conservative party’s leadership race, Pierre Poilievre has campaigned on fighting inflation and the rising cost of living, as well as defending Canadians who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

His promises have revolved around the central rallying cry of “freedom.”

As the race winds down, and with many expecting the veteran Conservative MP to be named the party’s next leader, here’s a look at some of the pressing questions Poilievre hasn’t yet answered — and is likely to face in the next general election.

His campaign declined multiple requests for comment.

1. Fighting climate change

Poilievre hasn’t said whether he will commit to Canada’s goal, enshrined in law, of reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century. He also hasn’t stated how much greenhouse gas pollution he believes the country should cut by the end of the decade.

Michael Bernstein, executive director of the climate policy organization Clean Prosperity, said private investors around the world and those in the oil and gas industry have committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. It’s also an expectation many Canadians have of their leaders, he said.

What Poilievre has vowed to do is cancel the federal carbon price, which he calls a tax, and scrap environmental impact assessment legislation and the ban on oil tankers off the coast of northern British Columbia, which the Liberal government passed in 2019.

He argues these measures have stymied the country’s ability to get energy projects, such as pipelines, built. Poilievre also promised to end the import of oil from “foreign dictatorships,” boost oil production in Newfoundland and Labrador, and support an east-west pipeline.

Poilievre has suggested he would rely on technology to reduce emissions but he hasn’t elaborated on what that means.

Bernstein says he finds it encouraging that Poilievre hasn’t said much about climate change on the campaign trail because that gives him flexibility, if he wins.

“The question for him is, how is he going to come up with a credible climate plan if he doesn’t want to use carbon pricing,” Bernstein says, and if he doesn’t want to take any measures that could increase costs for consumers.

2. Health-care funding

Several emergency rooms in Ontario have been forced to close for some time this summer due to a lack of staff, highlighting labour pressures on the country’s health-care system after two years of battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premiers have doubled down on their call for Ottawa to increase health transfers to bring the federal share up to 35 per cent from the current 22 per cent.

Poilievre hasn’t said how he would answer that request or detailed what he would do to help reduce the long wait times plaguing Canadians’ access to procedures and services.

What he has said is that provinces are best equipped to make decisions about service delivery. He also said under the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper, health transfers were increased by six per cent per year. That amount was negotiated by the previous Liberal government of Paul Martin. The Harper government said the annual increase would reduce to a minimum of three per cent in 2016-17. The Trudeau government has kept that formula with the smaller increases.

Poilievre has also pledged to ensure the provinces expedite the approval of professional credentials for immigrants, including trained nurses.

3. National daycare program

Another big question for the next Tory leader is around the childcare agreements Ottawa has signed with the provinces. These deals are supposed to ensure families will see their daycare fees cut in half by this year, paying on average as little as $10 per day by 2026.

When Poilievre has been asked what he would do with the national program, he has said he plans to wait to see its results.

He has also suggested he’s interested in reducing costs and providing parents with more choice.

But in the past, Poilievre has voiced opposition to the Liberal daycare plan.

“Why should Justin Trudeau get to force parents to pay through taxes for his government daycare scheme, instead of letting them choose what’s best for their own kids?” he tweeted in late 2020.

4. Repealing the 2020 ban on assault-style weapons

Rod Giltaca, the CEO and executive director of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, says Poilievre’s platform on firearms “is quite vague,” leaving the group unsure whether he’s committed to repealing a Liberal government order from 2020 that bans some 1,500 firearm models, including the AR-15.

“He’s made a commitment to treat gun owners fairly and to focus on public safety and to be honest, for our group, that’s enough,” Giltaca said.

During the last federal election, the Liberals attacked the Tories over former leader Erin O’Toole’s promise to gun owners that he would repeal the weapons ban.

Back in May, Poilievre gave a speech to members of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, where he said his voting record in Parliament shows he’s always sided with lawful gun owners, while endorsing stiffer penalties for those guilty of gun violence.

Poilievre said he would “simplify the classification rules” using easy-to-understand language and appoint a task force of firearms owners to set classification criteria.

5. China and foreign affairs

Some Conservatives believe the party should take a hawkish stance against the Chinese Communist Party and push the Liberals to better respond to the economic, security and human rights threats posed by the regime.

Questions emerged following last year’s federal election about whether criticism of China cost several Conservative MPs their seats in ridings with large populations of people of Chinese descent.

A federal research unit within Global Affairs Canada detected a pattern of online posts from Communist party-linked accounts that may have been a co-ordinated campaign to discourage people of Chinese heritage from voting Conservative.

Poilievre hasn’t spelled out how he thinks the party should approach China but has criticized fellow leadership candidate Jean Charest for his past work with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

When it comes to foreign affairs more broadly, Poilievre has said he believes in being tough on Russia and that Canada ought to send more lethal weapons to Ukrainians battling Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

During the leadership campaign, Poilievre also talked about developing more of Canada’s natural resources instead of importing oil from countries led by dictators.

—Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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